Sadly, most Americans skip Northern Ireland when planning a trip to the Old Sod. With so much to do and see in the south, it’s hard to find time in the itinerary.
When you consider all that the North has to offer, maybe it is best considered a trip of its own. Unless your ancestors are from the North it might not be your first trip to Ireland but certainly a second or third. Combine the North with some time spent in Donegal and you will have at least a week of things to do.
Let’s start with what is different about Northern Ireland. First and foremost is money. In NI it is the British pound. In the south, the Euro. Beyond that, not much is different. Yes there are more Protestants than Catholics but that is a subject to avoid in most parts of the world. Other than that the people are just as welcoming and engaging as their neighbors to the south and the people are my number one reason for going anywhere in Ireland. They sell a lot of the “Black Stuff’ in the north as well.
So what can you do while vacationing in NI? Hike in the Mourne Mountains. Visit the Titanic Exhibit in Belfast. Fish, rent a boat or just relax on one of the many lakes in Fermanagh. Along the North Coast of Antrim you can swim, surf or fish or enjoy some of the many activities noted below.
Not enough? You can hike or bike along the Coastal Causeway. While doing so you can enjoy several seaside villages and towns. Explore the Glens of Antrim. Near Armagh you can visit several sights chronicling the life of the fabled St. Patrick.
I have barely mentioned Belfast, known for its vibrant music scene, is quickly becoming one of the “cool” cities of Europe. Or Londonderry which was designated a City of Culture in 2013. Or Donegal if you have time.
Safety is a concern that clients raise when I bring up Northern Ireland. When talking about the island of Ireland, safety is one of the most compelling reasons to consider a vacation on the Old Sod. It is no different today in the North. “The Troubles” of the 1970’s are long in the past. At their height the murder rate in NI per hundred thousand peaked at 31.9. I live in Maryland. In 2012, the murder rate was 34.9 in Baltimore and 13.9 per hundred thousand in Washington DC.
Nationally the US murder rate is around 4.9 per hundred thousand compared to 2.8 in Northern Ireland. There are probably some poor neighborhoods in Belfast that you should avoid and some subjects that you might not want to bring up. Just like when you are traveling to Washington DC and Baltimore. In other words be smart and then don’t worry about it.
Northern Ireland has plenty to offer the US traveler. United fly’s directly to Belfast from Newark so a trip as short as a long weekend is feasible. When considering a trip to Ireland, make sure that you give Northern Ireland a look when planning your itinerary.